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Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 15 March 2018 08:18    PDF Print
Xoulogi on Baku World Cup: 'I Wish and Hope for a Medal'
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Veteran Greek gymnast Ioanna Xoulogi told IG Online that she is eager to use the World Cup of Baku that starts Thursday as a launching point for a series of key events on her agenda this year.

Ioanna Xoulogi (Greece)

"Although it is very early in relation to other big and important competitions like the European Championships in August and the world championships in October, I think I'm ready enough for this World Cup," she said. "My preparation goes very well."

Xoulogi, who turns 26 on April 16, said Baku will help her assess her potential for good results in other big meets in 2018.

"This competition is a test for me to see my weak points," she said. "Then I will have a lot of time to be better and be ready for the Greek national championships, the Mediterranean Games, the European championships and finally for the most important competition of the year, the world championships. My target for there is to place in the top 24 with my team."

In Baku, Xoulogi said she has high expectations on balance beam and floor exercise, the two apparatuses on which she plans to compete.

"My first target is to compete in the finals and then I wish and hope for a medal," she said.

Xoulogi credits outside support for contributing to her longevity and rejuvenation.

"I want to thanks my sponsors, Sigoa, for my beautiful leotards and Healing Art Massage that helped me in my recovery," she said.

Xoulogi said she is confident that she can continue to progress as she also eyes a return to all-around competition this year.

"Since 2017, I have changed my routine a little on balance beam, which is my favorite apparatus, and I will compete in the all-around," she told IG. "But first of all I have to protect my body from injuries, and I wish that I will be fine until the next competition."

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 08 March 2018 20:38    PDF Print
Yeryomina Eager to 'Get Back in Line' Following Back Surgery
(8 votes, average 3.50 out of 5)

Recovering from recent back surgery, 2017 world all-around bronze medallist Yelena Yeryomina of Russia is eager to begin a rehabilitation program on March 12 with the possibility of full training in six months, coach Vera Kiryashova told IG.

Recovering from back surgery, 2017 world all-around bronze medallist Yelena Yeryomina of Russia is eager to begin a rehabilitation program on March 12 with the possibility of full training in six months, coach Vera Kiryashova told IG.

Yeryomina underwent artificial disc replacement surgery February 12 in Munich, where surgeons stabilized the two lumbar vertebrae (L3-L4) and replaced the damaged disc with an artificial one. Doctors said the procedure was a success, Kiryashova said.

"The surgeons promised her that she would now be 'gold,'" said Kiryashova, who coaches Yeryomina with her husband, Alexander Kiryashov, in the Pushkin district of Saint Petersburg. "They were very sympathetic and attentive to Lena. They provided optimism and confidence in her future."

Yeryomina may credit some of her future success to East German gymnastics legend Karin Büttner-Janz, who pioneered the use of artificial discs to replace those damaged by injury or degenerative disease. Prior to Büttner-Janz's invention of the artificial disc in 1984, the standard course of treatment to replace a damaged disc was to remove it and replace it with bones, in order to fuse the vertebra on either side. Spinal fusion can lead to restricted movement and additional complications, and Büttner-Janz has been recognized by numerous organizations, including the International Olympic Committee, for her significant contributions to sports medicine.

Kiryashova said Yeryomina's rehab program will last up to six weeks, and that doctors believe she can resume a full training load in six months.

Yeryomina, who turns 17 on July 29, is looking forward to returning to the gym and continuing her quest for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Kiryashova said. At last fall's world championships in Montreal, she took third all-around and won a silver medal on uneven bars.

"Lena is in a wonderful mood," Kiryashova told IG. "She follows all the events that occur in the gymnastics world, cheers for everyone, and hopes with optimism in the near future, when doctors allow it, to get back in line."

In December, two-time world vault champion Maria Paseka also underwent back surgery in Germany, where the Russian national team members frequently travel to consult top orthopedic surgeons.

Read more on Yeryomina's surgery and prognosis in the April 2018 issue of International Gymnast magazine; and read "Perfect Harmony," a four-page profile on Yeryomina, in the January/February 2018 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print or digital editions of International Gymnast magazine, or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 08 March 2018 17:59    PDF Print
Simm Set to Show She's 'Back Up There' at British Championships
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

British gymnast Kelly Simm, 23, told IG that competing at last weekend's American Cup in Chicago helped her assess her readiness for the 2018 British Gymnastics Championships that began today in Liverpool.

British gymnast Kelly Simm told IG that competing at last weekend's American Cup in Chicago helped her assess her readiness for this weekend's British gymnastics championships in Liverpool.

Simm placed fifth all-around at the American Cup and is eager to show she is still going strong after recovering from multiple injuries. Simm, who turns 23 on April 23, is now the second-oldest member of the British women's squad after 2008 and 2016 Olympian Becky Downie, 26.

"Chicago showed me that we are definitely heading in the right direction," said Simm, whose parents traveled to the United States to cheer her on. "I was very happy to put out four solid routines, and I haven't competed an all-around competition in a big arena like that for a while, so I was very happy to do that. Going into the next few competitions, I am going to keep working on my execution on all events and concentrate on my landings, especially on floor, which should come more consistent as my routine stamina improves."

Simm said competing in Chicago has motivated rather than fatigued her as she prepares for Liverpool.

"It has been a quick turn-around from the American Cup, but we are taking it one day at a time in training and trying to get the balance right between training and recovery," said the Southampton native. "I felt very honored to be selected for the American Cup and it has made me even more excited for the British championships."

Simm is coached by Debbie and Keith Richardson at the Dynamo School of Gymnastics in Southampton. In 2014, she was the British vault champion and helped England win gold at the Commonwealth Games. Her breakout year was in 2015, when she won the all-around gold medal at the University Games in Gwangju, South Korea, and helped Great Britain to a historic third place at the world championships in Glasgow, the first world championships team medal for the British women. That same year, her impressive upgrades included a full-twisting double back off beam, making her possibly the first British gymnast to compete the ultra-difficult dismount.

However, a stress fracture in her back and then an ankle injury limited Simm the past two seasons, keeping her out of the 2016 London World Cup and last year's British championships. With an eye on other upcoming competitions, Simm said she is eager to again prove herself at Liverpool's Echo Arena as one of her country's top gymnasts.

"It's great to compete there," she told IG. "A lot of the coaches and girls from the club come and support, too, which is lovely. I want to show that I am back up there with everyone else and that I am continuing to improve."

Simm is also preparing for her second Commonwealth Games, which take place next month in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. She is the only returning member of Team England's gold medal-winning squad from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"Because I've been coming back from injury towards the end of last year, I haven't have the chance to get my new skills into my routines, as competition season began so early this year," she said. "So after the Commonwealth Games, I am hoping to get some new skills routine-ready for the rest of the competitions this year."

The 2018 British Gymnastics Championships began today with the Espoirs (Hopes) competition and continue Friday with the junior all-around. The senior all-around for men and women is scheduled for Saturday, followed by apparatus finals on Sunday.

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 08 March 2018 13:52    PDF Print
Óðinsdóttir Hopes #MeToo Story Will Educate Others
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Since coming forward in January with her story of acquaintance rape at an international competition, Icelandic gymnast Tinna Óðinsdóttir says she remains hopeful that her painful experience will help educate others and improve safety policies for other gymnasts.

Since coming forward in January with her story of acquaintance rape at an international competition, Icelandic gymnast Tinna Óðinsdóttir says she remains hopeful that her painful experience will help educate others and improve safety policies for other gymnasts.

"I really hope I can make a change," she said.

In January, Óðinsdóttir joined thousands of other Icelandic women who shared their experiences as survivors of sexual assault when she said she had been raped by a foreign gymnast at a hotel room in Germany after a competition in November 2016 in Germany. Her goal in coming forward was to try to help reduce the stigma and judgment that many sexual assault survivors feel — the same judgment and stigma that may prevent them from coming forward.

Óðinsdóttir has not identified the name or nationality of her alleged attacker, except that he is not a member of the Icelandic team. The following day, she returned alone to Denmark, where she was training in Aarhus, while the rest of the Icelandic delegation returned home. Increasingly depressed and unable to concentrate, she moved back to Iceland several months later. In 2017, she eventually informed her parents, and the Icelandic Gymnastics Federation.

Though she received tremendous support from her family and the federation, and is still weighing filing a formal police report, Óðinsdóttir did not feel ready to speak up until January. Germany's gymnastics federatio, the Deutscher Turner Bund (DTB), pledged its full support.

"We are shocked that this happened on the sidelines of an international tournament in Germany," Torsten Hartmann, a spokesman for the DTB, told IG in a statement, "and hope that this case will be completely cleared up and clarified above all in court and that the offender will receive the appropriate penalty. We wish Tinna a lot of strength and we offer our full support to investigate the incident."

Óðinsdóttir did not specify the specific competition, but she competed in November 2016 at the Tournament of Masters, an FIG World Cup event in Cottbus, Germany. A spokesperson for the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) stated it learned of her story through media reports, but felt it was appropriate to decline comment on the case until it had spoken with Óðinsdóttir, or been contacted for assistance by the federation.

Just last week, the FIG Executive Committee proposed a new set of guidelines, Policies and Procedures for Safeguarding and Protecting Participants in Gymnastics, as part of its pledge to combat sexual abuse and harassment in the sport. The FIG EC also plans to establish an external ethics unit to investigate incidents and potentially issue sanctions in cases of misconduct.

In first telling her story, Óðinsdóttir said she did not immediately go to the police because she was alone and frightened in a foreign country, and did not know where to go or how to contact someone for help. Hartmann told IG that it planned to review its policies to ensure all participants in DTB events have the resources at their disposal to reach help.

"The DTB has been building structures and processes for the prevention and intervention of sexualized violence in sport for several years," Hartmann said. "This must include a security concept at events, which gives the greatest possible protection to all, especially athletes. Information about contact points in emergencies and direct contact to the organizers is already given to the athletes with their accreditation. Nevertheless, we will sit down with our organizers of the competitions and events, develop an action plan, which is especially important for foreign participants and guests in emergency situations, to communicate preventively. It must be clear to all guests and athletes that help or support is available at any time."

Óðinsdóttir said she was pleased with the response from the DTB and the support the federation offered to assist with her case, should she decide to file a police report. She said she has felt pressured by some people to name the male gymnasts involved in her alleged assault, but informs people who ask for a name that she will only do so in a manner she is comfortable with.

"I always say that it is really personal," she said. "I want to [report] it professionally, and I feel like people respect that."

Óðinsdóttir is aware that not all victims of sexual assault have the full support she has experienced since telling her story. She urged anyone who has been pressured to keep quiet instead of reporting any incident must consider what is best and right for them.

"I would tell them that they can't put someone else's interests first," she said. "Not their club, not anyone. You have to let yourself come first, your own interests and your own feelings.

Óðinsdóttir is once again thriving in the gym. Last month, her Dutch-born coach, Rene Poutsma, moved from Denmark to Iceland, and she is thrilled to have his guidance and support again.

"That makes me so happy," she said. "He not only helps me with my gymnastics — he is also a good friend. He has been there for me through everything, and he just knows me so well. He always gets me in a good mood to train and just get better.

Óðinsdóttir is scheduled to compete in two national competitions in the coming months and hopes to qualify for the Nordic championships, taking place in July in Denmark, and the European championships, to be held in August in Glasgow.

"We have so many good girls here in Iceland, so it's gonna be a fight to get on the team," she told IG, "but I'm definitely in that fight!"

Óðinsdóttir: In Every Language, No Means No

"It won't happen to me." We all keep saying this to ourselves – but it happens. It happens more than you might think and it can happen to you. You might think that you can fight back or run away, but that's not always the case.

You freeze. You're paralyzed. You can't do anything to prevent what's happening. All you can do is be afraid and hope that you'll live to see another day.

You never know what people are going through or what issues they might be dealing with. We're all vulnerable – no matter how strong a person might seem or pretend to be. It hurts to be reminded of such things, so the next time you feel the need to tell a sexist joke: don't. Just don't.

Where's the respect for women? Where's the respect for a "no"? Sexual assault is not just when a woman is being pinned down in a back alley by a masked man. Seven out of 10 acts of sexual violence are committed by someone you know, and more often than not, it doesn't happen in back alleys – it happens in bedrooms at parties, on sidewalks outside our apartments, and in movie theaters when you don't quite know what to say.

Even if your date isn't kicking and screaming, listen – because they still might be saying no. In every way, in every language, no means no.

Next time you're in the heat of the moment, remember to check for signs of consent. When in doubt, silence means no.

I'm proud of being a woman. But how can we respect ourselves if men constantly think it's OK to disrespect us? We're equals. We need mutual respect.

— Tina Óðinsdóttir

For 24/7 assistance for survivors of sexual assault, visit RAINN in the United States, Rape Crisis UK, Rape Crisis Network Europe, and Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.
Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 08 March 2018 10:18    PDF Print
India's Aruna Reddy Vaults into Spotlight
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Aruna Reddy has vaulted her way into national fame and put gymnastics back in the spotlight in India after her historic bronze on vault last month at the Melbourne World Cup in Australia.

Despite heavy obstacles in her way, Aruna Reddy has vaulted into national fame and put gymnastics back in the spotlight in India after her historic bronze medal last month at the Melbourne World Cup in Australia.

"My moment of glory has finally arrived," Reddy told The Times of India, which reported her voice choking with emotion as she spoke from Melbourne.

Reddy, 22, has become the newest star in Indian sport since February 24, when she became the first gymnast in the nation's history to win a medal at a World Cup event, an accomplishment that even eluded her famous training partner, 2016 Olympic vault finalist Dipa Karmakar. Reddy was given a hero's welcome upon her arrival in Hyderabad last Friday morning, with a cavalcade of official cars, media and well-wishers waiting to receive her at the airport.

International success has largely eluded gymnasts in India, where adequate training facilities and world-class coaches are rare, and sports like cricket, field hockey, badminton, and tennis are more popular. Reddy is only the third Indian gymnast to win a major international medal, following Karmakar and male gymnast Ashish Kumar, both of whom have earned medals at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

In Melbourne, Reddy wrapped herself in the Indian flag for the medal ceremony to celebrate her achievement. She averaged 13.649 to win the bronze medal behind Slovenia's Tjaša Kysslef (13.800) and Australia's Emily Whitehead (13.699). She also finished seventh in the floor final, an improvement of one place from the qualification.

"This is my first international medal," Reddy said. "I don't have words to describe my feelings. It's been 13 years since I've seriously pursued a career in gymnastics and finally, I have a World Cup medal."

With the Commonwealth Games coming up in April in Australia, the news of her historic medal sent India's media flocking to interview the Reddy family, who live in a suburb of Hyderabad, and gymnastics officials in her home state of Telangana.

"We are so happy for her," said her sister, Pavani Reddy. "We were confident that Aruna had it in her to make it big. We have been waiting for this moment. I am sure she will bring more laurels to the country."

Karmakar, who is still sidelined after undergoing ACL surgery last year, sent out her support.

"So proud of you Aruna!!" the world and Olympic vault finalist tweeted to Reddy. "Congratulations on your outstanding achievement!"

Indian media have devoted several stories to Reddy's late father, as well as the plight of her long-time coach, who is seriously ill and was unable to accompany her to Australia.

Reddy's first steps in sport were in karate, but her father noticed her natural flexibility and thought she might excel in gymnastics. When she was 7, her father brought her to Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad — and she hasn't looked back since.

"Every medal I will win is dedicated to my father," she said of her father, who died in 2010.

Reddy was first coached by Swarnalatha, Giriraj and Ravinder (in some parts of India, particularly the south, it is common for Indians to use single names only, without surnames). After Giriraj, who was Swarnalatha's husband, was killed in an accident a decade ago, Reddy began training with Brij Kishore. Since 2011, she has trained in New Delhi, nearly 1,000 miles away (1,500 km) from home, alongside Karmakar under national coach Bisweswar Nandi.

Kishore remains her personal coach and usually attends training camps and international competitions with Reddy, but she was without him in Australia. While at a training camp in Uzbekistan prior to the Melbourne World Cup, illness forced Kishore to return to India, where he has been hospitalized at the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology outside Hyderabad. Kishore already struggled to make ends meet prior to his illness and blames the contract he is employed under via the Sports Authority of Telangana State (SATS). Kishore pointed out that SATS recently hired yoga instructors on full salary.

"Then why the partiality towards us?" he asked The New Indian Express. "This contract-based system is a menace. I do this out of interest. There are no other sources of income for me. I get paid Rs 43,000 per month (US$660). I have been coaching for 25 years, and this is what I get. With this salary, I can barely do anything. My wife's brother is helping out with the expenses right now."

When Kishore's plight made national news, the chairman of SATS visited him personally in the hospital with a check for ₹2 lakh (US$3,000) to help alleviate his medical expenses.

"My student got a great result," said Kishore, who was presented with the check two days after Reddy's medal. "That is the reason behind why I got the check. It should not be like this."

According to its own officials, the Sports Authority of Telangana State will not hire coaches over 49 years of age on salary, only on contract. This age discrimination may be based on not wanting to contribute to retirement pensions in the near future; Kishore's wife said he will have no pension to count on.

Bureaucracy and infighting have notoriously plagued Indian gymnastics. When Russian-American coach Vladimir Chertkov was hired as national coach prior to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, he frequently complained of the absurdity and incompetency that hindered the team's growth.

Bureaucracy and factionalism were once again on display after a scandal erupted over the selection of India's Commonwealth Games team that was resolved only after the intervention of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). The FIG and the Asian Gymnastics Union (AGU) both recognize the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) as the governing body for gymnastics in the country, but neither the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) nor the Indian Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports recognize the GFI (or any other authority). Originally, the Indian Olympic Association held a Commonwealth Games trials in New Delhi in mid-February, but only one of the three-member selection panel had any knowledge of gymnastics. The chairman of India's Commonwealth Games gymnastics selection committee was the president of the Indian Lawn Bowling Federation.

To the exasperation of the GFI, rings and parallel bars specialist Rakesh Patra was left off the six-member squad to the Commonwealth Games, which takes place in April in Gold Coast, Australia. Patra, along with Kumar, is considered one of the country's only hopes for apparatus finals. The selection committee was apparently unaware of the relevance of apparatus specialists and selected the top three all-around gymnasts. Patra, who was never informed that the all-around score would be part of the selection criteria, petitioned the Delhi High Court to hear his case. Additionally, two gymnasts were put on the team who are not eligible to compete in the Commonwealth Games as they do not currently hold FIG licenses. The FIG told the IOA to respect the authority of the FGI in selecting its team for the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, where the gymnastics competition will be held under the auspices of the FIG, per the authority of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

"While we fully recognise that it is the prerogative of the IOC to register the gymnasts for the Olympic Games and the Youth Olympic Games, this is not the case for the Commonwealth Games," the FIG informed the IOA president on February 28, according to the letter circulating in the Indian media. "The registration and selection of the Gymnasts who participate in the Commonwealth Games is the prerogative of our National Gymnastics Federation."

Following the FIG's instructions to the IOA, the GFI selected Patra and Yogeshwar Singh to India's Commonwealth Games team, along with Kumar. Reddy headlines the women's team along with Pranati Nayak and Pranati Das. Rhythmic gymnast G. Meghana Reddy, who recently began training under 2016 Greek Olympian Varvara Filiou, is India's lone representative to the Commonwealth Games rhythmic competition.

Aruna Reddy, who vaulted a clean piked barani and a full-twisting Tsukahara in Melbourne, holds an outside shot for a medal at the Commonwealth Games, where she will be competing with top gymnasts from not only the host country but also Canada, England and Wales. Karmakar, who also overcame financial difficulties to reach the world-class level, became a national heroine for her bravery in attempting the extremely difficult Produnova vault (handspring double front).

Reddy said Karmakar remains an inspiration as she attempts to match her teammate's 2014 achievement by winning a medal on vault at the Commonwealth Games.

"We have been training together since 2011," Reddy said of Karmakar. "We are not rivals and can't be. We are each other's support system during training and competition time. We treat each other as sisters and are close friends. Her hard work actually inspires me. Even before leaving for [the World Cup], Dipa had motivated me by telling me to give it my best shot and not to feel the pressure."

Reddy, who said she hopes to win a medal in Karmakar's honor next month, is enjoying her own hard-fought success and recognition.

"Indian gymnastics is synonymous with Dipa, but now people will know that there's Aruna Reddy as well," she said.


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